#YoSoy132, Social Media, and Political Organization
- Javier Contreras AlcántaraJavier Contreras AlcántaraDepartment of Political Studies and International Relations, El Colegio de San Luis
During the 2012 presidential election in Mexico, a movement arose that broke with the existing framework of political mobilizations. What began as a protest to call into question the past of one of the candidates became, with the assertion of their status as university students, a student and social movement that urged a discussion on the nature of Mexico’s democracy. The movement, called #YoSoy132 (#IAm132), became active on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, uniting young citizens from a generation that was beginning to distance itself from politics. Finally, following a series of debates on the path the country should take and the presidential election, the movement did not strengthen, but instead left behind a generation of young politicized citizens who now adopted new forms of socialization and organization for political action, which applied to further mobilizations. Since then, Mexico witnessed the emergence of new political players which have lifted the unease felt by the current political class.
In July 2012, elections were held for the presidency of the Mexican Republic. These elections raised the possibility that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) would again claim the presidency, which it had long held until the end of the 1990s, as shortly before the election their candidate was leading in the polls by approximately 20 points.1
This situation created unease in the general society for several reasons: it had taken nearly a 25-year transition process since the electoral reform of 1977 when the regime had opted to allow competition and the representation of other parties,2 and it was only in the year 2000 that the PRI had lost the presidency after over 70 years of rule. Even with two presidential terms under the National Action Party (PAN), the process of institutional transformation necessary to adjust to a regime based on democratic principles was still not certain. Therefore, the Mexican electorate saw the PRI’s possible return as a potential threat: a return to authoritarianism.
Similarly, in the context of violence associated with the “drug war” and the country’s unsatisfactory economic growth, the PRI sought to position itself as the only party with real government experience. Therefore, the PRI presented itself in the election of 2012 as the ideal option to solve the nation’s problems of violence and instability as well as to maintain the nation’s economic stability. Add to this consideration the fact that the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto was a young and charismatic candidate with experience as governor of the state of Mexico—the largest state in terms of population—and with a high-profile media presence. Any concern that existed surrounding his performance and expertise was overshadowed by his connection with the masses. This positioned him, as the electoral preference polls indicated, clearly in the lead over both Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and Josefina Vázquez Mota of the PAN.
Over the course of the electoral campaign, the polarization between the supporters and opponents of the PRI candidate was becoming more and more relevant, although no doubt had been cast on what seemed to be certain victory for the PRI—no doubt, that is, until the emergence of a student movement called #YoSoy132 (#IAm132). This movement disrupted the tone of the campaign, generating an interest in the conditions of Mexican democracy that began with questioning the leading candidate, the decisions of the governor of the state of Mexico, and the role of various media sources in pushing his candidacy.
Members of the movement belonged to a generation of youths who until now had distanced themselves from politics and who seemingly did not possess either the knowledge of or the abilities for political organization, but who, upon losing their rights, especially their right to free speech, became involved nonetheless through social networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube). They mobilized and went into action despite the program of both the Mexican political system and the PRI purporting to promote a discourse of openness and participation for young people.
Mexico’s university students launched a process of politicization and political socialization that allowed the multiple realities within this sector to intersect and take on collaborative, argumentative, and action-based projects. While these projects were not long lasting, they supplied new forms of political endeavors that would benefit the country’s political transformation through the rise of new social and political organizations.
Emergence of the Movement (Context and Beginnings)
The presidential campaign of 2012 began in March, and already the PRI’s candidate had begun and maintained his lead in the polls by more than 20 percentage points. His candidacy did not have the support of young voters, however, and even led to mobilizations for protest, although no consolidation had taken place. On May 1, 2012, Mexico’s two open-signal television stations refused to broadcast the second presidential debate on their main channels, following reactions on Twitter with the hashtag #MarchaAntiEPN (#MarchAgainstEPN). This tweet called for a protest against the PRI candidate on Saturday, May 19,3 as did the retweets of several influential people and critics of the PRI. By May 10, the call to protest was published in Proceso,4 an important informational media source in both digital and print formats, which strengthened its presence on social media and now brought visibility to the unrest surrounding the presidential election.
The next day, May 11, the PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, visited the Universidad Iberoamericana—a private Jesuit university—as part of the Buen Ciudadano Ibero forums which were held to familiarize the audience with all the presidential candidates.5 The reports, columns, and interpretations of what happened in the José Sánchez Villaseñor auditorium led to a bitter controversy that would ultimately give rise to the university’s student movement.
A strong security presence had been implemented for Peña Nieto, and students and professors alike were required to pass through security checkpoints. This unusual situation provoked widespread frustration within the university community. Two student groups had a particularly large presence at the forum: one in favor of the candidate and the other opposed to him.6 Peña Nieto therefore arrived onstage to a loud mixture of applause and jeers. The opening statement explaining his government proposals was interrupted various times with negative chants, and members of the audience carried protest signs bearing phrases such as “We will not forget Atenco,” “Murderer,” “Thief,” and “I am prole[tarian].”7
The crucial moment came when Peña Nieto was asked about the political actions he had taken in San Salvador Atenco as governor of the state of Mexico.8 At this point, he had already begun to leave the auditorium but decided to return to answer the question. He now launched into a defense of his government’s decision to use public force to reestablish order and assured the audience that the guilty had been punished. His defense of the use of violence and the suspension of the police officers at the lowest levels for human rights violations, far from satisfying the students, outraged them further.
Facing growing protests, the candidate began his exit from the auditorium amidst growing chaos: his security team, lost in confusion, took the wrong route toward the university’s radio station facility, where Peña Nieto was expected to give an interview. Alarmed by the enormous confusion, they hid out in a hallway by the bathrooms, the candidate then lost his temper, after few minutes finally the candidate’s security team hastily led him away from the university, and he never made it to his interview.9 The whole situation was broadcasted by the university radio station and several videos of Peña Nieto’s meltdown soon surfaced on the Internet.
Although the candidate himself declared that he had been respectful of the protests, the PRI’s then-president—Pedro Joaquín Coldwell—referred to the students as “a handful of teenagers who are not representative of the Ibero community, [who] adopted an attitude of intolerance regarding the proposals made by our candidate.”10 Other members of the PRI and the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM) also tried to discredit the protesters, suggesting that the protest had been organized by López Obrador’s team and that the participants were not actually university students. Media sources associated with Peña Nieto picked up versions from the campaign team and attempted to reframe the event. Their efforts were largely successful: the Organización Editorial Mexicana, the country’s largest newspaper chain, printed the headline “Success for Peña at Ibero Despite Orchestrated Boycott Attempt!” Whereas not all the news media subscribe that version. Actually two versions of the situation appear in the public sphere: the reframed and the real.11
The students gave a quick response. On Monday, May 14, they uploaded a video to YouTube proving that they were members of the university: in addition to their student ID cards and student numbers, they displayed the courses they were enrolled in, and they affirmed that they did not act on behalf of any candidate.12 Viewing of the video spread quickly. The PRI campaign responded by minimizing the video and the size of the protest, indicating that only 131 students had been involved.
This understatement of the number of students at the protest, along with the denial of their student status and the questioning of their freedom of expression, generated a staunch response of solidarity with the Ibero students from students in many other Mexican colleges and universities. The result was the hashtag #YoSoy132, with which students nationwide sought to show that far more than 131 students in the country opposed Peña Nieto. The higher number was confirmed with a YouTube video outlining what would shape the movement’s mission: “For an authentic democracy! I Am 132!”13
Expansion and Development of the Movement
On May 18, four days after the Ibero students had broadcast the video confirming their university identities, accompanied by students from other private and public universities, they organized a march toward the Televisa facilities.14 The demonstration would come to be known as the “Marcha por la Verdad” (March for Truth), as its objective was to declare their opposition to the manipulation of information in favor of Peña Nieto.
The “Anti-Peña Nieto” march took place the following day. Although the march had been organized through social networks prior to any conflict with the university students and was not a response to the #YoSoy132 movement, there was an alignment with the movement, and the march was replicated in multiple states throughout the country. On May 22, students again demonstrated in front of the Televisa facilities, where they were granted an interview with the morning news. The interview, though not amicable, helped create a positive image for the students.
Following the displays of solidarity and coinciding with the country’s growing unease over its social, economic, and political life, another march took place on May 23. The march began as a protest at the Estela de Luz,15 where the movement began to materialize upon asserting their independence of all political parties, their freedom of representation from any institution of higher education, and their organization in university committees. In their statement, they proclaimed their right to freedom of expression and to information that would “guarantee transparent, plural, and impartial information in order to encourage critical thinking and awareness.”16 As their agenda, they included the opening of the media market and the establishment of a Code of Ethics and an Ombudsman of the Public for all forms of media; implementation of their right to the Internet; and creation of a space for young people in the public discussion. The march was replicated in Monterrey, Cuernavaca, León, Puebla, and San Luis Potosí, and several days later, the students issued their declaration via YouTube.17
Another march was planned on May 28, and this time it would be toward the Secretariat of the Interior, in which the protesters demanded that the second debate between the presidential candidates be aired on a national network. Mexico’s two open networks (Televisa and TV Azteca) had decided not to broadcast the debate on their channels, which had the largest national coverage and had instead given the time slot to soccer matches. In light of the protests, both companies yielded to pressure to transmit the second debate on their main channels.18
In a matter of weeks, the movement had entered into a dynamic of significant mobilization. It had demonstrated its ability to bring people together via social networks; it had captured the attention of all media networks; and it was at the center of the political agenda for the elections. But the most complicated step was yet to be taken: organizing and shaping the spontaneous convergence so as to influence the presidential race.
On May 30, an assembly was held at Ciudad Universitaria. Although an Interuniversity Coordination had been created several days earlier connecting students from diverse institutions and had tried to provide a space for the groups to demonstrate and organize, the movement still lacked a consolidated organizational group. Following the march on May 23, they decided to initiate a formal organizational process that would create assemblies at every university and designate spokespeople in charge of communicating the decisions in what would be the Interuniversity General Assembly (AGI).
Representatives from at least 74 assemblies came to the first AGI meeting on May 30.19 They agreed on 15 work areas: public spaces in the media; political stances and positions of the movement; election and information, as well as transparency in the polls; organization of the movement, in which only the spokespeople would participate; a method of assembly participation and diffusion; arts and culture; educational policy; science and health; violence and suppression in social movements; democratization of internal bodies within government structures in public and private universities; the postelectoral agenda and the scope of the movement; a national agenda to form a significant political project after July1; the environment (election-related waste); history and historical memory; and participation of Mexican nationals living abroad.
These work area topics show that the concerns of those entering the movement were diverse, ranging from how to organize and position the movement in the electoral context to a potential significance in the elections and to subjects seemingly distant such as educational policy, science and health, art and culture, or the democratization of government structures within the universities.
The next day, the movement submitted requests to the election organizers, the National Electoral Institute (IFE), that the second presidential debate be broadcast on a national station; that a third debate take place; and that there be an extension of the deadline for students to register as poll watchers on election day. The first two requests were denied, but the third was granted. In spite of the IFE’s denial, the movement scored an important victory when the PAN candidate and the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution and the New Alliance Party (PANAL) agreed to participate in a third debate organized by the students.
On June 3, another demonstration was organized in front of the Televisa facilities to demand the opening of the media market and the transparent broadcasting of the elections. On June 4, marches took place in various Mexican states (Tamaulipas, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, and Coahuila), and new mobilizations were announced in other cities. Clearly, the movement had spread beyond Mexico City and was expanding into the rest of the country.
On June 6, another general assembly took place, in which three topics were central: the manner of organization, its political stance, and its immediate agenda. For the first issue, the movement decided to replace the Interuniversity Coordination, which had representatives from just 15 academic institutions, with a broader council made up of delegates from each school or academic institute that formed an assembly. Therefore, the now 98 local assemblies would all have representation in the highest decision-making body for any political initiatives or approaches, and committees were included for logistics, press and communication, finance, outreach, legal matters, and security, all of which would have a representative in the Interuniversity Coordination. These committees would only perform operational, logistical, and coordination tasks, would not be able to vote, and would answer to the General Assembly.
With regard to political stance, it was determined that the committees would declare themselves independent from any political party; be respectful of the free vote; be critical and informed but recognize that the political struggle could go beyond the elections; would be antineoliberal; and would oppose “a manipulated electoral process, intent on restoring the former regime that practiced state violence, authoritarianism, opacity when making public decisions, and other antidemocratic practices.”20 They identified this regime with Enrique Peña Nieto: “It is not hatred nor intolerance in response to his name, but weariness and outrage in response to what he represents.” The manifesto was disseminated through the movement’s YouTube account.21 The committees also advocated putting then-President Felipe Calderón on trial for the death of more than 65,000 people in the drug war. And finally, they invited all sectors who felt disrespected by the country’s situation to join the fight.
In terms of their agenda, members of the movement focused on setting out new mobilizations, holding another general meeting, and reiterating their proposal for a third debate among the presidential candidates, even if it meant hosting it themselves and not acknowledging any candidate who refused to participate.
The next mobilization, on June 10, coincided with the second debate organized by the IFE and the commemoration of “Jueves de Corpus,” an act of military repression perpetrated against a student movement that took place in 1971. Marches were also held in the states of Veracruz, Quintana Roo, Puebla, Morelos, Querétaro, Nuevo León, Chiapas, and San Luis Potosí, among others, continuing the movement’s rise to national stature.
On June 13, the movement mobilized yet again, protesting the deaths in Atenco, the drug war, Peña Nieto, and Televisa’s relationship with the PRI.
It would be on June 19, just over a month after the #YoSoy132 movement started, that it achieved one of its most important goals: it held the third presidential debate, organizing it completely on their own following the IFE’s refusal to sponsor it. The debate took place in the auditorium of the Federal District Human Rights Commission and was transmitted via YouTube; those present included Josefina Vázquez Mota of PAN, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of PRD, and Gabriel Cuadri of PANAL—the only candidate who absented himself was Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI, who claimed that there was no need for him to be present and declared the movement to be against him. The questions for the debate were posed through Google Moderator in real time. Although there were several hiccups owing to technical failures, the movement demonstrated that political events could be presented in a dynamic way using methods other than the usual ones and expending very few resources.
On June 25, there was another mobilization, this time outside of Mexico, in Paris. There a group of young Mexicans living temporarily in France organized a flash mob during a modern art exhibition called “Resisting the Present” showing works that alluded to some of the difficulties Mexico was experiencing.22 The movement had now transcended the nation’s borders and was bringing international attention to the elections as well as to the multiple problems facing the country.
With election day quickly approaching, there would be a need for a special agenda: “Six days to save Mexico” was the answer the movement came up with. This was the name the movement participants gave to the events leading up to July 1. The actions they planned were a General Assembly meeting, a gathering at the IFE, a second “March for Truth” ending at Televisa, and an Open Forum for Democracy on June 26; a march from the Ángel de la Independencia to the Monument to the Revolution, with information provided demonstrating why people should not vote for the PRI and breaking piñatas resembling Peña Nieto on June 27; a human chain for democracy in which participants would symbolically surround the offices of businesses that represented the forces in power on June 28; an artistic demonstration at the Monument of the Revolution in every plaza in the country on June 29; culminating on June 30 with a march for the transparency and integrity of the elections, following the route from Tlatelolco to Televisa and ending in the Zócalo, a nighttime gathering, and a film screening.
These actions were intended to demonstrate the commitment of the movement to the fight for democracy, while also fostering a festive atmosphere, devoid of the solemnity that often accompanied the Electoral Institute’s activities as well as those of the political parties themselves. They actions indicated an appropriation of democracy by the students, who found refuge and hope in the political endeavor and who consequently challenged the country’s political, electoral, and party systems. They sought to appropriate democracy in order to ask: “What democracy is this?”—the democracy that they were met with when it was time to participate in it.
Finally, the last day to save Mexico, the election day arrived, and a large number of students from the movement worked as poll watchers. The movement had formed a Vigilance Committee and had partnered with various initiatives such as FotoxCasilla, Contamos, Tu Foto Cuida Tu Voto, and Cobertura132, so that anyone who wished to count could come to a ballot box when it closed, take photos of the sheets with the results, and upload them along with the results to a platform specifically designed for that purpose. This would provide an alternative count separate from the IFE’s, allowing a contrast of information regarding the results and helping to detect any manipulation of information.
The winner was the PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, with a 6.6% lead over the second-place candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD.23 The scenario the movement had so profoundly feared had become reality: the PRI had retaken the presidency. The reaction of the movement was a sit-in at IFE’s doors and an “Anti-Imposition March” on July 2 in Mexico City
The first report from the Vigilance Commission, issued several days after the election, showed 1100 anomalies,24 including vote buying and other irregularities, conditional support for social programs, obstruction of observation, and aggression. The second report, issued one month later, reported 2700 incidents of irregularities and evidence of electoral offenses, which led the movement to question the legitimacy of the election. The movement submitted the reports to the National Electoral Institute, the Special Prosecutor for Electoral Offenses, and the Federal Electoral Tribunal.
Meanwhile the matter of legal validation of the election was being resolved, the movement continued its actions on the ground. The movement began to reach out to other movements and organizations, initiating a new phase of their activism. From July 6 to July 8, members of the movement traveled to the National Student Conference in the state of Morelos, where representatives from 26 universities were present. Several days later, they participated in the First National Anti-Imposition Convention in San Salvador Atenco, attended by approximately 350 organizations from more than 20 Mexican states and organized by the Atenco Community Front in Defense of Land; by teachers who were part of the National Coordination of Educational Workers (CNTE); by the Electricians’ Labor Union; and by rural organizations.
On July 22, another march took place in Mexico City, this time simultaneous with marches in other cities in Mexico protesting the irregularities of the election and the vote buying in favor of the PRI, which had now become known as the “Monex case.”25 On July 26, the demonstrators organized a symbolic takeover of Televisa, where they camped out for 24 hours and held political, musical, and cultural events.
Transformation, Dissolution, and Fragmentation
In early August, the movement participated in the meeting of the National Provisional Coordination for the Second National Anti-Imposition Convention, where 130 organizations from throughout Mexico came together. On August 8, the Jornada de Lucha Nacional was celebrated, a day commemorating the 133rd anniversary of Emiliano Zapata’s birth in the state of Morelos. At the end of August, the movement participated in the second meeting of the National Provisional Coordination, and the actions that followed originated from that meeting.
At this juncture, the student movement was beginning to join up with other, more radical political activist groups, thereby running the risk of losing the support of more moderate adherents as well as students present at the foundation of the movement who opposed the new direction it was taking.
On August 31, the Federal Electoral Tribunal found the 2012 electoral process to be valid, confirming Peña Nieto’s victory and the return of the PRI. The irregularities, manipulations, and vote-buying practices, though proven, were not sufficient, the judges opined, to allow any other result. Nonetheless, this decision occasioned a loss of confidence in the system for a large number of citizens, who perceived the underlying message to be that democracy belonged to whoever could buy it. That same day, the movement held a “funeral march” in which it symbolically buried democracy. Now they were once again faced with the choice of compliance or dissent.26
On September 1, Felipe Calderón the outgoing president, delivered the Governmental Report to Congress highlighting the actions carried out during the past year of governing. That same day, the movement organized a parallel event that they called the Contrainforme, or Counterreport, in which they presented a critical review of the situation in the country regarding the democratization of the media; the educational, scientific, and technological model; the security and justice model; the economic model; the political transformation model and its connection to social movements; and finally, the health model. In this way, it hoped to call on the general public to participate in a dialogue that would allow them to achieve an authentic democracy.
For the September 15 celebrations marking the anniversary of Mexico’s independence movement, #YoSoy132 held alternative ceremonies to counter the official ceremony in the Presidential Palace. Representatives of the movement appeared at the official ceremony to voice their rejection of President Felipe Calderón. Broadcasts of the event managed to conceal the protest,27 once again demonstrating that the primary media outlets had not changed their behavior. Thus, faced with what the public would think of the failure of one of the demonstrations’ initial motives—protesting information manipulation—the usefulness of the social networks as a rapid means of alternative communication was yet again proven.
On September 22 and 23, the Second National Anti-Imposition Convention took place in Oaxaca. There the country’s present situation was analyzed, and the need to create connections between the student body and the workers’ labor unions, as well as with other organizations that would help strengthen their fight, was emphasized. The items on the new agenda were a far cry from issues associated with the initial movement: food sovereignty, the right to energy, the struggle against overexploitation of natural resources, and structural reform. The proposed agenda of activities included a march with the labor reform by September 27, a national student strike on October 2, a march against the privatization of the electrical industry on November 11, and a large presence at the December 1 swearing in of Enrique Peña Nieto.28
These changes in the movement’s direction, together with plans to join other organizations rather than strengthening internally, ultimately began to weaken it. At the same time, some of the actions undertaken by supposed supporters bordered on violence (e.g., hijacking highway toll booths, roadblocks, and masked protests), thereby discouraging most of those who had, at one point, supported the movement.
Finally, on December 1, 2012, #YoSoy132 carried out a march against Peña Nieto’s inauguration and staged a demonstration in front of the Chamber of Deputies. Many acts of vandalism occurred, and the police took action against the protesters, incurring a large number of injuries and arbitrary arrests. When the movement came together to share images via social networks of those who had initiated the vandalism, it became apparent that the violent protesters had been planted by the security agencies themselves, that the majority of those detained had not participated in any acts of violence whatever, and that their arrests were unwarranted. Ironically, the movement that began with a protest against the repression of a social movement was dissolved after becoming yet another victim of repression.
At first glance, it would seem that the history of the #YoSoy132 movement is ephemeral, a movement that achieved nothing except perhaps a social catharsis. But this would be a simplistic conclusion. Obtaining a clearer idea of the contribution and importance of the movement requires an assessment that takes several aspects into account.
One of the characteristics of the PRI’s regime during the 20th century was based on the symbiosis between the state and the party, defined by the circumstances of the postrevolutionary regime, as well as the depoliticization of society and the demobilization based on individual client exchanges, either when there was identifiable leadership or via corporatism.
In this case, the #YoSoy132 movement did not direct its complaints toward the government but rather toward the behavior of a party that, though it no longer had government power, had maintained its old regime practices. Moreover, the party had intensified these practices in the face of a generation of Mexicans who were born during the PRI’s last term and who grew up after 12 years of governance under PAN, a time in which the discourse on democracy, citizenry, civil society, transparency, freedom of expression, and human rights was present in their formation. Thus, when accessing the ability to participate in democracy as citizens, they were met with a gap between the discourse under which they were raised and the electoral reality of a regime that never completed its transition into democracy.
The reaction of this young generation was exemplary in that, faced with the option of surrendering or fighting, they chose to put into action their freedom of expression, their citizenry, and democracy at a time when their identities, their autonomy, and their right to critical political expression were being denied.
Another point of interest with regard to the protest lies in its creation. Even if the “grievance” was specific, the responses to it allowed for a reconstitution of identity: members progressed from “Ibero student” to university student, young people, and later, academics and a large part of society that disagreed with Mexican democracy. Of course, while the inclusion of new members within the group caused the movement to be reclassified under a more general category, it also transformed its identity and the direction.
These transformations symbolized a significant challenge that needed to be processed. First, in Mexico, studying at an elite private university is quite different from studying at a public university, involving different lessons of reality with different struggles. Therefore, while some focused the struggle on the domain of democracy and open competition in the media, others focused on social issues such as education, health, and the environment. These issues can be observed in the agendas of the Interuniversity Assembly, as well as, later, in the last stage of the movement, when it included a focus on antineoliberal and more radical issues, indicating the public institutions’ more radical wings.
On a positive note, the assembly’s organizational process allowed the students a form of socialization that contrasted with the traditional experiences of partisan politics, labor unions, and formal student representation. What they created reflected aspects of self-organization, decentralization, horizontality, and decision making that were founded in dialogue and participation in the discussion. In contrast, their limited experience in politics and mobilization, which was a direct product of depoliticization, instability, and cooption of the student organizations, prevented the creation of a legitimate, strong, effective structure on which to base their movement. This failure, in turn, created difficulties in reaching clear agreements; the decentralization and autonomy of the assemblies fragmented its voice, with stances and actions that had not been authorized by the entire movement. It caused slow decision making as well as impatience with coordinated action, and finally, the dispute over the movement’s agenda and political stance resulted in the withdrawal of its first supporters.
With these considerations in mind, two more points remain to be emphasized: First, through the process of political learning and socialization, a generation that once considered itself uninterested in politics eventually put its knowledge to use in new political action projects; and, second, this generation was able to use new forms of media (i.e., social networks) as well as political and institutional actions and the same avenue for revitalizing political work.
There have been at least three ramifications of the above points. First, the protests against the disappearance of the students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College and the 2017 protests against the increase in gasoline prices suggest that the hashtag that identified the #YoSoy132 movement remains present in the streets and that local structures continue to be active, indicating the strong identity and positive experience generated by the movement. Second is the importance and influence of social networks in putting pressure on political structures and in bringing demonstrators together in the streets without any easily identifiable organizers, as well as in preventing and reporting instances of demobilization, aggression, and repression. Third, one successful case of this new political action that derive from the #YoSoy132 movement is the association Wikipolítica, which has achieved a presence in Mexico City, Jalisco, Baja California Sur, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Chihuahua, and Yucatán, with other upcoming hubs in Nuevo León and Quintana Roo.
A significant boost for Wikipolítica’s growth came in 2015, when it introduced an independent candidate in Jalisco’s local representative elections. Despite the restrictions that bar an independent candidate from entering the race, the candidate won. From then on, the association demonstrated that with innovation via social networks, few resources, and creativity, they could compete with and defeat the mainstream parties and their antiquated political methods.29 The Wikipolítica representative has presented a number of initiatives that were approved and reflected in local legislation. He has also succeeded in raising issues brought up for discussion at the national level and in pressuring the national political structure to effect change, such as through the movement #sinvotonohaydinero (#novotenomoney), which seeks to reduce public funding for political parties.30
#YoSoy132 dissolved, but the incomprehension of the new social reality created a point of intersection for those whose paths were least likely to cross, generating among themselves a public space based on their overlap. Through their endeavors, they began to construct a new possible reality, a democracy that approached the one they envisioned, and with it—despite the disagreements and demobilization—they planted many seeds in their wake. While some of these seeds will not germinate, others will sprout and flourish in Mexico’s fight for democracy.
Discussion of the Literature
The literature that covers this very recent topic is still emerging and can be divided into approximately three categories: the press, webpages, and blogs on the Internet that display documents; discussions and reflections from the moment of or shortly after the movement; and academic texts.
Covering a movement that emerged without any clear center or leadership, whose fundamental support was via the Internet and where many primary sources are dispersed throughout the web, presents a challenge for historians. The movement’s official webpage, http://www.yosoy132media.org/, no longer exists, thereby losing records of the discussions, organizational process, and gatherings. Information on local assembly spaces and the accounts used by the movement, however, are still present on Facebook and Twitter, some of which are still active. Several reflections on the movement created during its development are preserved in other spaces on the web. Press sources are partially available for review on the Internet.
Within the academic realm, works on the movement have been made principally in the field of sociology and, in particular, the study of social movements, as well as in political theory. Research is found mainly in the form of journal articles and book chapters, and in some cases the works are currently being published.
The field of sociology has taken up #YoSoy132 as a social movement, an example are the articles “Cómo escapar de la cárcel de lo electoral: el movimiento #YoSoy132” by Alonso; “Tensiones políticas en el proceso de movilización-desmovilización: el movimiento #YoSoy132” by Olivier and Tamayo; “Las marchas virtuales frente al mundo real. El movimiento #YoSoy132 en México” by Velázquez; “Sistema de protesta: política, medios y el #YoSoy132” by Estrada; and “Los nuevos movimientos sociales en México: El movimiento por la paz con justicia y dignidad y #YoSoy132” by Bizberg. A proposal from political theory, “La política distribuida de los rebeldes del presente: la acción en la era de la web 2.0” and “Insurgencies Don’t Have a Plan—They Are the Plan: Political Performatives and Vanishing Mediators” by Benjamín Arditi, conceives of the movement as an evanescent collective, capable of generating public space and of becoming an interlocutor for the traditional players on the scene of change in the postliberal era. From Political Science there is “Más allá del voto: modos de participación política no electoral en México” by Somuano.
Works by Rovira “El #YoSoy132 mexicano: la aparición (inesperada) de una red activista”; Bacallao-Pino “Desigualdad comunicativa en el repertorio discursivo de la acción colectiva: El caso de #Yo soy 132”; and “El uso de las redes sociales y el comportamiento politico en México” by Moreno and Mendizabal focus on the practices and forms of organization, as well as on the information technology used. In “Derivas de un performance politico: emergencia y fuerza de los movimientos 131 y #YoSoy132” Arteaga and Arzuaga have written on the disagreement between the traditional political players and students, beginning with binary discourses and performances.
Finally, there are the general texts as “#YoSoy132. La primera erupción visible” by Galindo and González, as well as “#YoSoy132: ¿una nueva forma de ejercer la ciudadanía?” by Coutiño and Hernández, “Yo Soy 132 and the return of the PRI” by Cadena and Serrano, “Yo Soy 132: Participatory Democracy and Youth Movements in Mexico” by Serrano, and “#YoSoy132 and the “Mexican Spring” of 2012: Between Electorate Engagement and Democratisation” by Cuninghame.
Some of the researchers who followed the movement likely have saved records on the subject, as confirmed by Jorge Alonso’s article. However, it is the press sources that can give an account of the movement and the political reactions thereof.
The primary newspapers to review, for both their role and their political-ideological position and their circulation, are the daily publications from the Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM), beginning with Sol de México and followed by Milenio, Excélsior, El Universal, Reforma, and La Jornada. With regard to other news sites that covered the subject on a large scale, the archives of Aristegui Noticias, Animal Político, and ExpansiónCNN can be consulted.
Some documents, such as the movement manifesto, are online. It is also possible to access the movement’s Facebook page and its Twitter accounts, @Soy132Mx and @YoSoy132Media, as well as the webpages of many local and international assemblies on both social networks.
Links to Digital Materials
- Alonso, Jorge. “Cómo escapar de la cárcel de lo electoral: el movimiento #YoSoy132.” Desacatos 42 (May–August 2013): 17–40.
- Arditi, Benjamín. “La política distribuida de los rebeldes del presente: la acción en la era de la web 2.0.” Documento de Trabajo No. 7. Mexico City: UNAM, 2015.
- Arditi, Benjamín. “Insurgencies Don’t Have a Plan—They Are the Plan: Political Performatives and Vanishing Mediators.” In The Promise and Perils of Populism. Edited by Carlos de la Torre, 113–139. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2015.
- Arteaga, Nelson, and Javier Arzuaga. “Derivas de un performance político: emergencia y fuerza de los movimientos 131 y YoSoy132.” Revista Mexicana de Sociología 76.1 (January–March 2014): 115–144.
- Bacallao-Pino, Lázaro. “Desigualdad comunicativa en el repertorio discursivo de la acción colectiva: El caso de #YoSoy132.” Cuadernos Info 36 (2015): 27–37.
- Bizberg, Ilán. “Los nuevos movimientos sociales en México: El movimiento por la paz con justicia y dignidad y #YoSoy132.” Foro Internacional 55.1 (2015): 262–301.
- Cadena Roa, Jorge, and Daniela Serrano. “Yo Soy 132 and the Return of the PRI.” In The Future We the People Need. Voices from New Social Movements in North Africa, Middle East, Europe and North America. Edited by Werner Pruschra and Sara Burke, 123–126. New York: Frederich Ebert Stiftung, 2013.
- Camp, Roderic Ai. “The 2012 Presidential Election and What It Reveals about Mexican Voters.” Journal of Latin American Studies 45 (2013): 451–481.
- Carta Paramétrica, “El movimiento Yo Soy 132 y el voto de los jóvenes.” June 2, 2012.
- Coutiño, Patricia, and Julián Hernández. “#YoSoy132: ¿una nueva forma de ejercer la ciudadanía?” In ¿Democratizando la democracia? De la primavera árabe a los indignados, eds. César Cansino, Samuel Schmidt, and Guillermo Nares Rodríguez, 187–211. Mexico City: Benemérita Universidad de Puebla and Juan Pablos Editores, 2014.
- Cuninghame, Patrick. “#YoSoy132 and the ‘Mexican Spring’ of 2012: Between Electoral Engagement and Democratisation.” Bulletin of Latin American Research 2 (2017): 192–205.
- Estrada Saavedra, Marco. “Sistema de protesta: política, medios y el #YoSoy132.” Sociológica 82 (May–August 2014): 83–123.
- Galindo, Jesús, and José González-Acosta. “#YoSoy132. La primera erupción visible.” Mexico City: Global Talent University Press, 2013.
- Mitofsky, Consulta, “Perfil de usuario de redes sociales en internet, Facebook y Twitter,” December 2011.
- Moreno, Alejandro, and Yuritzi Mendizábal. “El uso de las redes sociales y el comportamiento político en México.” Paper presented at the Latin American Studies Association, San Francisco, May 2012.
- Olivier, Guadalupe, and Sergio Tamayo. “Tensiones políticas en el proceso de movilización-desmovilización: El movimiento #YoSoy132.” Iztapalapa, Revista de Ciencias Sociales y Humanidades 79 (July–December 2015): 131–170.
- Rovira, Guiomar. “El #YoSoy132 mexicano: la aparición (inesperada) de una red activista.” Revista CIDOB d’Afers Internacionals 105 (April 2014): 47–66.
- Serrano, Rodrigo. “Yo Soy 132: Participatory Democracy and Youth Movements in Mexico.” In The Future We the People Need. Voices from New Social Movements in North Africa, Middle East, Europe and North America. Edited by Werner Pruschra and Sara Burke, 127–129. New York: Frederich Ebert Stiftung, 2013.
- Somuano Ventura, María Fernanda. “Más allá del voto: modos de participación política no electoral en México.” Foro Internacional 45.1 (2005): 65–88.
- Velázquez, Mario Alberto. “Las marchas virtuales frente al mundo real. El movimiento #YoSoy132 en México.” In Los nuevos caminos de los movimientos sociales en América Latina. Coordinated by Mario Alberto Velázquez, Helene Balslev Clausen, and Anne Marie Ejdesgaard Jeppesen, 123–147. Mexico City: Aalborg University, University of Copenhagen, and El Colegio del Estado de Hidalgo, 2015.
1. The four political contenders for the presidency in 2012 were Enrique Peña Nieto as a candidate for the coalition between the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Ecologist Green Party of Mexico (PVEM); Andrés Manuel López Obrador for the coalition between the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Labor Party (PT), and the Citizens’ Movement (MC); Josefina Vázquez Mota for the National Action Party (PAN); and Gabriel Cuadri de la Torre for the New Alliance Party (PNAL). For their positions in the electorate’s initial preferences, see http://www.animalpolitico.com/2012/03/pena-nieto-iniciara-campana-con-una-ventaja-de-al-menos-17-puntos-encuestas/.
2. The electoral reform of 1977 is often considered the starting point of Mexico’s transition. This reform occurred following the 1976 presidential election, in which the PRI candidate faced no contenders because the National Action Party, the PRI’s only opponent at the time, had no candidate running. This reform aimed to facilitate the emergence and registration of new parties in order to provide resources for carrying out their activities and accessing Congress by way of proportional representation. For a brief revision of the process of institutional change beginning with the electoral reforms, see Lorenzo Córdova, “La reforma electoral y el cambio politico,” in Reforma política y electoral en América Latina, coords. D. Zovato and Jesús Orozco Henríquez (Mexico City: UNAM/IDEA, 2008), 653–703, available at https://archivos.juridicas.unam.mx/www/bjv/libros/6/2527/17.pdf. For an account of the change in the meaning of democracy, see Javier Contreras Alcántara, La experiencia de la democracia: Cambio político y conceptual en el México contemporáneo (Mexico City: El Colegio de San Luis, 2014).
3. Hector De Mauleón, “De la red a las calles,” Nexos (September 2012), http://www.nexos.com.mx/?p=14969.
4. Proceso, “Convocan en redes sociales a marcha anti Peña Nieto en el zócalo,” 2012, http://www.proceso.com.mx/307077/convocan-en-redes-sociales-a-marcha-anti-pena-nieto-en-el-zocalo.
5. The visit was first intended to take place a month earlier; however, it was canceled for scheduling reasons.
6. De Mauleón, “De la red a las calles,” points out that attempts were made to deactivate the protests and that the candidate’s security agents tried to take down the posters and even offered money to this end.
7. In reference to a tweet in December by Paulina Peña, daughter of the PRI candidate, who used the word “prole,” in reference to proletarian. This word carried a pejorative, classist, and disparaging connotation aimed at critics of her father, who during the International Book Fair was mocked for being unable to name three book titles. For more on this tweet, see http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2011/12/06/politica/013n1pol.
8. On May 3 and 4, 2006, a conflict arose between the state and municipal police and the inhabitants of the villages of Texcoco and San Salvador Atenco. The confrontation resulted in two deaths, the arrest of 200 demonstrators, and the sexual assault of at least 26 women. This incident was marked by a series of human rights violations by the police: notably, arbitrary arrests, illegal detentions, torture, home raids, robberies, solitary confinement, cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment, sexual assaults, rape, and the erratic inclusion of prior inquiries. For the report from the Human Rights Commission, see http://www.cndh.org.mx/sites/all/doc/Recomendaciones/2006/Rec_2006_038.pdf. Sanctions were issued against the lower and middle ranks of the police force.
9. A report can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7VYgsVnHi4.
10. The Televisa account of Peña Nieto’s visit to the Ibero can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qomAgKzBQJA; the reframed version can be read at http://expansion.mx/nacional/2012/05/11/el-pri-llama-intolerantes-a-los-jovenes-que-abucearon-a-pena-en-la-ibero.
11. To see several front pages from this chain, consult http://www.sopitas.com/158068-y-en-la-imagen-del-dia-el-exito-de-pena-nieto-en-la-ibero-segun-oem/. For other reactions, consult: http://www.proceso.com.mx/307224/pena-nieto-amarga-leccion-en-la-ibero, http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/05/12/politica/005n1pol.
12. For the video of the proof of student status at the Universidad Iberoamericana by the protesters, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hca6lzoE2z8.
13. For the video on the creation of the movement, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6LgxA-7FiM.
14. Televisa is Mexico’s primary open-signal television network. It had a close relationship with the PRI regime during the 20th century, and rumors arose during the 2012 campaign surrounding an agreement that the network had signed to boost Peña Nieto’s campaign. For more on this issue, see https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/07/mexico-presidency-tv-dirty-tricks?INTCMP=SRCH.
15. The Estela de Luz is a monument in Mexico City constructed during Felipe Calderón’s government to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence and the 100th anniversary of the revolution. The monument was extremely expensive to build and was not widely accepted, so it became a symbol of corruption and unjustified government spending.
16. The declaration can be seen at http://www.animalpolitico.com/2012/05/declaratoria-y-pliego-petitorio-de-yo-soy-132/.
17. The first manifesto can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igxPudJF6nU.
18. For more, see http://www.proceso.com.mx/309048/yosoy132-exige-a-segob-debate-en-cadena-nacional, http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/05/29/politica/004n2pol, and http://wradio.com.mx/radio/2012/05/29/nacional/1338332820_696664.html.
19. To view the content of the assembly’s accord, see https://ferrusca.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/relatorc3ada-asamblea-universitaria-30-de-mayo-de-2012.pdf.
21. The second manifesto can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=8&v=0GKzsDuhC-o.
23. Voting data can be found at http://siceef.ife.org.mx/pef2012/SICEEF2012.html#.
28. A summary of the Second National Anti-Imposition Convention can be found at http://luchadeclasesyprocesohistorico.blogspot.mx/2012/10/segunda-convencion-nacional-contra-la.html.
29. To learn more about Wikipolítica, see http://www.proceso.com.mx/393403/wikipolitica-una-apuesta-singular and http://www.nexos.com.mx/?p=25218, https://hipertextual.com/2016/06/wikipolitica.
30. To learn more, see http://sinvotonohaydinero.mx/.